Widow Mountain P1K
Peak 5,530ft P900
Mt. Bidwell P900
Sugar Hill P900
Buck Mountain P900 PD
Little Baldy

Sep 4, 2018
Buck Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 Profiles: 1 2

With three days for a solo roadtrip, I headed to the far northeast corner of the state for a visit to the Warner Mountains. I had visited the area briefly 10yrs earlier with my son on a county highpointing mission. There are two of them located in the range that I tagged, but that was all I did. This trip would give me a chance for a longer visit to explore more of the range, tag some prominence summits and give the Jeep another workout. I screwed up when I was transferring files from my travel laptop to my server and accidently deleted all the GPX tracks I'd saved for the day. Oops.

Peak 5,530ft

I was up early, before 4a to leave San Jose and the Bay Area in the dark with no traffic whatsoever. I had driven north to Redding on Interstate 5 and then north on SR299 before sunrise came. On my way to the Warner Mtns along SR299, I took a detour to visit a couple of minor range highpoints in this part of the state. Indian Spring Mtn is the highpoint of the Whitehorse Mtns and I attempted to reach it via a road heading north from SR299 through the small town of Day. The pavement ends at Day and unfortunately so did public access on the continuing road north where I found it gated at a boundary between private and national forest lands. There are other ways to reach it, but they were no longer convenient from where I was, so I gave it up. All was not lost, because Peak 5,530ft, a P900 was not far from where I got stopped. I drove back down to Day, then east on dirt Widow Valley Rd (Forest Rd 94) up to the crest of the Big Valley Mountains. I followed lesser roads northwest along the crest to get me within about 2mi of the summit. The area is a mix of forest and private logging lands, leaving a somewhat confusing mix of roads that can differ significantly from the maps. I found myself driving around on barely discernable roads with heaps of loose dust in logged areas with piles of slash and earth to confound navigation. Figuring I was close enough for a hike, I parked the Jeep and headed out. Starting off cross-country through the grassy forest understory, I soon found the old road (no longer driveable) that I had been attempting to negotiate before losing it. The road, quite brushy in places, was better than the cross-country otherwise, and neatly took me along the ridgeline, meandering from one side to the other before reaching the super-brushy highpoint in about 45 minutes' time. Haze, trees and tall brush obscured views, leaving this one pretty much a bust.

Widow Mountain

Widow Mtn is the highpoint of the Big Valley Mtns, located at the southeast end of the range. I drove back out to Forest Rd 94 and then attempted to continue on other roads along the crest to Widow Mtn, but found the road deteriorating badly with heavy brush encroachment. I was discovering that the limitations of the Jeep were rarely tested by the roadbed, but almost always by the encroaching brush. It seems the hunters who frequent such roads have been slowly migrating from trucks and jeeps to ATVs over the past several decades. Where the Forest Service doesn't maintain roads, the hunters only keep logs and brush cleared for the narrower width of an ATV. It makes sense, of course, with less work on their part, but I'm finding the Jeep too wide to fit on many of these older roads. I ended up driving back out to Day, then south a few miles before trying another road heading east up into the range. It was a very good road until it hit a quarry, after which it, too, became too overgrown to continued. I had to drive all the way back out to SR299 and approach the summit from the southeast. Good roads could then be taken all the way to the summit where a telecom tower is located. The highpoint is just east of this point in the brush where one can find a Barbara/Gordon register from 2000. Lots of the usual names can be found - Rasmussen, Vitz, Carey, Adrian - along with entries from local hunters and firefighters. There was an unlocked gate not far from SR299 that needs to be passed through (Sierra Pacific Industries land) on the way to the summit. On the way back I noticed a small sign tacked to a tree that the area was currently closed to the public due to fire damage.

Mt. Bidwell

I would spend the next three hours after leaving Widow Mtn in driving highways (SR299 & US395) and backroads to the far northeast corner of the state where Mt. Bidwell is located, the northernmost P900 in the range south of the Oregon border. Only two miles from the border in fact, but all the driving was in California. I drove in from the west on County Hwy 2, an excellent dirt road that services campgrounds at Lily and Cave Lakes before turning south and exiting the range at Fort Bidwell. Not far past the campgrounds, lesser roads can be used to get closer to Mt. Bidwell. I ended up getting within a mile and a half before my road disappeared and I ground to a halt. Had I turned on another road a little earlier (there's a building for the Moonlight Mine found at the junction), I could have driven all the way to the summit. I found this better option about ten minutes after leaving the Jeep and heading uphill. The road follows along the broad NW Ridge through open country with swell views off either side. Though the topo maps shows mines pockmarking the area, there seems to be little of this. Cattle grazing, however, is rampant in the range and seems to be its main use. The highpoint is found atop a broad plateau overlooking rural and forest lands in three states. I found no sign of a register among the many competing summit boulders. The outing, about 3mi in total, took just under an hour.

Sugar Hill

This one is a drive-up with an unmanned lookout located at the summit. The peak is found on the west side of the range overlooking the massive Goose Lake that straddles the CA/OR border. My route to reach it was poor, a meandering series of roads starting on the west side, going wide around the north and east sides of the peak before finishing up from the south. I found brushy roads I probably shouldn't have pushed through on, stacks of bagged pine cones for purposes unknown, better roads where I didn't expect them and ultimately wouldn't recommend the route as there are shorter ways to reach it on better roads. At the summit, the lookout has been festooned with solar panels and telecom antennae, the entirety of it surrounded by an impressive fence worthy of a state pennetentiary. There is a benchmark located outside the fence to the south, with views overlooking the lake and much of the range stretching to the south.

Buck Mountain

I spent another hour driving between Sugar Hill and Buck Mtn, though separated by less than 7mi. There were excellent roads connecting the two, but these weren't obvious and I spent more time getting lost on lesser roads where I was once again stopped by brush. Grazing and logging are evident everywhere, recreational use less so. There is no road to Buck's summit, but the good one I traveled got within a quarter mile as it passes by on the east side. I stopped here and made the short cross-country jaunt up steep, forested slopes to the summit with poor views. More interestingly, I found a good deal of obsidian on the slopes (as I did on Mt. Bidwell, too), some of it mixed with a brown coloring that made for cool-looking rocks.

Little Baldy

Bald Mtn, a P1K, lay another 7.5mi to the south with very good roads found along the way. I passed a sign for Little Baldy and decided to visit it on the spur of the moment though it had little prominence. A rough road leads to within a quarter mile of the summit which lies atop a plateau overlooking the eastern escarpment of the range. It was a pleasant little summit with nice views, particularly at this time of day less than half an hour before sunset. Bald Mtn could be seen about 2mi to the south and I was hoping I might yet make it to the summit, even if after sunset.

The topo map shows a road nearing the summit from the north and it was this spur road I went off in search of. What I found was a very rough track, used by motorcycles and ATVs, but not really suitable for the Jeep. This would have made for a 2mi hike each way, more than I was going to do at this time of day with evening coming on swiftly. The good road I had taken towards Little Baldy continues around the east side of Bald Mtn, coming within about half a mile. I decided this would be a better plan, one suitable for the first thing in the morning. I found a nice flat area to camp about 3/4mi northeast of Bald Mtn, off the maintained road and very quiet. I had eaten a couple of pieces of pizza for lunch earlier and decided that would suit me for dinner as well - I hadn't really done that much hiking today. I did have a beer and some salty snacks though, tiding me over quite nicely until morning...


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